Christina Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite poem, “Goblin Market” tells a story of two young sisters who live a simple, agrarian life and are tempted by goblin men who advertise their fruits to the maids. The character of Lizzie, who never succumbs to the goblins’ temptations, acts as a Christ-like figure who is responsible for Laura’s salvation in the end of the poem. This religious symbolism is obvious in the passage in which Lizzie returns to Laura after attempting to buy some of the goblins’ fruit for her dying sister:
Never mind my bruises.
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men (Rosetti 1506).
Lizzie is literally offering Laura her body because it is covered in the goblins’ juices after they mashed their fruits into her face when she refused to eat them. This passage is extremely reminiscent of a huge tenant Christian faith, that Jesus Christ was tortured and ultimately died for the sins of all men. The lines, “Never mind my bruises./Hug me, kiss me…” is reminiscent of Jesus’ plea to all humans to accept Him as their Lord and savior. Specifically, when Lizzie talks of her bruises, the reader is reminded of how, before Jesus was crucified, he was whipped. The Bible even says that “He [Jesus] was bruised for our iniquities” (King James Bible, Isaiah 53.5).
In addition, Lizzie makes it clear that she dealt with the goblins for Laura: “…suck my juices/ Squeezed from goblin fruits for you…For your sake I have braved the glen/ And had to do with goblin merchant men.” Lizzie specifically said that she “squeezed” and “braved” the goblins, two words that indicate that she did a burdensome, terrifying task. Not only this, but she did these things “for you [Laura]” and “For your [Laura’s] sake.” Lizzie qualifies her actions, specifying that she did each of those things for Laura. In the Christian religion, Jesus also went through torture, death, and even hell so that his followers could be forgiven of their sins and go to heaven. In this case, Lizzie represents the savior and Laura represents those who need to be saved.
The biggest indication that Lizzie is acting as a Christ figure in this poem is that she offers her body for Laura to consume. It echoes the Christian communion. Lizzie says “Eat me, drink me, love me.” She isn’t literally asking Laura to consume her, just as Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to literally eat his body and drink his blood during the sacrament. Rather, they ate bread and wine which were symbolic of accepting Jesus, following him, and being saved. Lizzie is asking Laura to “eat” and “drink” her and be saved. Laura is saved from the brink of death when Lizzie gives her the goblin juices; Lizzie saves her sister just as Jesus saved his followers.
Lizzie symbolizes Christ in “Goblin Market” because she is wounded by the Goblins, acts selflessly in order to save Laura’s life, and offers her body for Laura to consume. Each of these elements can be connected back to the Jesus’ various actions to save his followers. Christina Rossetti was a Pre-Raphaelite. They were a group of artists responding to the huge, largely industrial transformations that were taking place in British Society in the Victorian Era. They sought social and spiritual unity by rejecting their highly alienating industrial world and instead focusing on retelling medieval stories. The abundant presence of religious elements, such as Lizzie as the Christ, in “Goblin Market” emphasizes a struggle for spiritual understanding.
Isaiah. King James Bible. Bible Hub, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed Stephen Greenblatt. Ninth ed. Vol. E. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1497-1508. Print.